From Akimbo Comics.
There is an interesting thing that people say, and I think they say it without really thinking about what it means, and that’s something like:
“We’re all here for a reason.”
“Each person has a mission in life.”
“We have a purpose to fulfill on this world.”
Because people who use this ploy usually seek to explain some instance of suffering or to infuse some meaning in our lives, I will call this the purpose rationale.
I think these sayings are interesting because they tie together religious and natalist threads, and their corollaries (such as the anti-suicide position and the Christian relativist position). It goes to the core of what it means to support the life-system (i.e. evolution/God’s design, depending on who you ask, leading to the variety of life that we see today, as well as future lives).
Supporting the life-system is an indefensible position, and arguments in its favor are equally indefensible.
But even if it was defensible, the purpose rationale still couldn’t trump the net negative of human lives. Given the fact that we rely on other people’s labor (which is in most cases harrowing and vastly underpaid, and in some cases forced, labor) in order to be fed, clothed, able to communicate and be entertained, and even work ourselves, our lives start as a net negative. As well as being imposed life by one’s parents, we are also an imposition on everyone else. Furthermore, our decisions sometimes hurt other people, which also pushes us further into the negative side.
So, while we can decide to self-assign ourselves some kind of greater purpose, or we can even decide to constantly lie to ourselves in order to brainwash ourselves into believing we will someday fulfill a greater purpose, these purposes cannot justify the existence of a human life.
Of course it’s possible to trivialize the notion of a “purpose” so much that it applies to everything we do. In that sense, we all have a “purpose,” and so does a virus or bacteria. But what about babies who die while being born? What about little children who die before fulfilling any kind of supposed purpose?
Well, at that point the believers in God-purpose-giver or universe-purpose-giver reply that they were on this planet to teach us compassion or love or some crap like that. I think that’s fucking disgusting. The death of a little child is not worth any amount of compassion added to humanity. Ethically, speaking, no sacrifice is worth it unless it is voluntary and carries with it the possibility of eradicating a far greater suffering. To praise the involuntary and pointless suffering of a baby is just plain fucked up.
But there is a deeper point here. These ideologies see human beings as instrumentally valuable, i.e. that their value is contingent on their use for something or someone else. In the case of Christianity, that someone would be God; in the case of the New Agers or other universe-as-purpose-giver ideology, that someone is usually other people (in that they believe that the universe arranges events, including other people’s actions, for or against you, depending on your attitude, karma, or level of “evolution”).
I didn’t mention that the soul is primordial to their understanding of purpose. The soul is half pseudo-scientific gobbledygook, half religious gobbledygook. But it’s the soul that gets tasked, not the body! Well, that wouldn’t really change the facts, even if the soul did exist.
I don’t believe in any god, or in a sentient universe that responds to us, or in any other kind of purpose-giver. I also do not, and cannot, believe that human lives exist for the sake of something or someone else. All human lives are inherently valuable.
This may make it seem like I believe in a greater purpose; but saying that human lives are inherently valuable necessarily means there cannot be a purpose-giver, because the latter would make human lives instrumentally valuable. But I don’t believe we are self-made either; free will and self-ownership are lies used to get people to buy into the “participate in the capitalist games” purpose. No external purpose can ever be valid. And internal purposes, as I’ve pointed before, can be nice, even noble, but don’t justify human lives.